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Power Meetings

“Power Meetings”

Use them as a tool to grow your company.

Meetings are unavoidable. But the meetings you hold also should reflect your needs as a second-stage business owner.

Get everyone talking

Do you keep your key people in the loop with regular meetings that allow for sharing ideas and solving problems?

As your company grows, departments or divisions become more sharply defined. Regular company-wide meetings are essential so these divisions can keep each other informed.

Case in point: As Art Holdings, his Minneapolis-based, custom-framing business grew, founder Rick Speckmann says, "Various divisions gradually gained autonomy and focused on their own areas — products, sales, operations, accounting." Speckmann knew he had to get these divisions talking or problems would spin out of control.

Solution: Speckmann began monthly meetings with key people. "In our first five or six meetings, I’d say, ‘Tell me what’s happening in your area.’ Now my key people come with an agenda: ‘This is what’s going on, these are the impact points.’ They’re ready to open a discussion. Then everyone has a chance for input."

Custom meetings

If you think your business could benefit from a certain meeting, go for it.

Example: Early in his business, one entrepreneur started holding weekly executive-committee meetings to review the company’s financial situation. Now that his firm tops $7 million in annual sales, he still holds these weekly financial meetings. But they’re in the evenings so that his 53 employees can attend if they like. Meetings that enlighten staff about the financial picture pay off, says the CEO. Employees understand that belt-tightening happens when profits dip and that they’ll get the new equipment or resources when the bottom line improves.

Meet to make amends

An annual meeting can be a good forum for making amends; it’s typically a time when employees are already primed to be in a cooperative spirit.

Case in point: When IBM set sales quotas unrealistically high, the result was a disgruntled salesforce. Management used the annual sales meeting to acknowledge the error in judgment: For a key presentation, the company hired a robot and scripted it to engage in a dialog with the CEO. The robot would make indignant comments such as, "Look what they’ve done with these quotas! They expect us to meet their completely unrealistic expectations," and the CEO replied with clever remarks. The exchange provoked laughter, but management’s serious message hit home: "We made a mistake setting quotas that high." The admission, made in an entertaining way, helped quiet the unrest among employees who resented the quotas.

The many faces of virtual meetings

Face-to-face meetings are great for brainstorming, problem solving, consensus building and boosting team spirit. But they can be time consuming, expensive and disruptive of daily work — especially when meetings are held off-site.

Virtual meetings, on the other hand, can be "attended" by employees from the comfort of their own desk, regardless of location. Use them for regular updates, exchanging information and ideas, introducing new policies and procedures and making routine decisions that aren’t contentious.

Teleconferencing connects participants by phone.

Videoconferencing enables people to see, hear and interact with one another during meetings. The equipment — available for rent or purchase — makes the interactive experience almost as good as being there.

Web-based conferencing is becoming increasingly popular for management and staff meetings, sales conferences and training. You link to a conferencing-service site via your Web browser and host meetings using online tools such as PowerPoint slide shows and annotated white-board presentations. Attendees respond through text chat and a linked-in voice-conferencing service.

A few Web-conferencing sites include: Genesys Conferencing, Raindance, www.placeware.com, and www.webex.com.

Conferencing centers charge per person, based on the features you use:

  • $10 for each participant per meeting for the use of text.
  • $15 each for streaming audio.
  • $30 each for streaming audio/video.

Put it in writing

Try an occasional fax, letter or e-mail in place of meetings. Written communication takes less time and allows leeway for serious thinking.

Remember: Don’t use either written communication or virtual meetings when the topic is controversial or complex. Sometimes there’s no substitute for actual meetings where people sit together, talk and make eye contact to deal with demanding issues.

Writer: Kathleen Conroy